Kathie: Welcome to MG Book Village, Stacy! I’m so thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for your MG debut novel, The Prince of Steel Pier, which is set for release September 1st from Kar-Ben. I’d love to hear more about it, please?
Stacy: Sure! THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER takes place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the summer of 1975. The book follows Joey Goodman, a thoughtful, anxious 13-year-old, who feels like he doesn’t have a place in his big, boisterous Jewish family. He’s sure that his parents, his grandparents, and his three brothers see him as kind of a wimp. If only he could prove to them, and to himself, that he’s strong and tough, maybe they’d stop treating him with kid gloves. One day on the A.C. Boardwalk, Joey stands up for himself to a group of men who turn out to be gangsters. They’re so impressed with him that their leader, Artie Bishop, the so-called king of Steel Pier, offers Joey a job. Artie and his crew make Joey feel like he has a place to belong, that he’s “one of the guys.” But Joey soon learns that working for Artie puts his whole family in danger. He must decide where he truly belongs, and where strength can really be found. It’s a story about the bonds of family, self-discovery, and finding strength within yourself.
Kathie: I know that you worked on this book with Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin as part of Pitch Wars. Can you tell us a bit about that process and how the book changed from its original concept?
Stacy: I knew next to nothing about writing and publishing a book when I submitted to Pitch Wars. When Amanda and Cindy chose my manuscript, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. But they are the most amazing mentors anyone could ask for. My first edit letter was about six pages long, but while they were giving me plenty to chew on, they were also incredibly positive and supportive of the book. They encouraged me to fully explore the themes of the book and to round out the characters. They taught me about three-act plot structure and hitting writing beats- things I’d never heard about before working with them. The book itself has not changed too much, but it is so much richer and more nuanced now than it was when I submitted it to them.
Kathie: I’d love to know more about your main character and the inspiration for him?
Stacy: I’ve been a middle school teacher and librarian for thirty years, and Joey is an amalgamation of lots of students I’ve known through the years. I wanted Joey to be smart, but not brilliant, kind but not sugary sweet. He’s the kid who doesn’t speak up much in class but who does his work and gets along with almost everyone. But at home, he’s got three brothers with strong personalities, and he feels like his voice just isn’t heard. Joey feels out of place in his family because he’s not as charming as Reuben or as bold as Simon or as captivating as Ben. What he doesn’t realize is that he has so many wonderful inner strengths. He learns that over the course of the novel. Creating characters is one of my favorite things about writing. I like to imagine the kind of kid I wish I’d been and write characters that way!
Kathie: What would you like our readers to know about your book?
Stacy: The book takes place at the fictional St. Bonaventure Hotel, but when I was little, my grandparents actually owned a kosher hotel on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City called the St. Charles. Much of the setting for THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER is based on my memories of all the time I spent down the Jersey Shore with my family, especially at the hotel and on the Boardwalk. There’s a scene at the very end of the book where Joey’s grandfather shows him an old St. Bonaventure postcard, and his family members are all in the pictures on the postcard. That postcard is real! I have a St. Charles Hotel postcard from about 1967 that features me and my family members at the hotel, and readers will be able to see it with my Author’s Note in THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER. I didn’t know any gangsters though- I swear!
Kathie: Who are the illustrators behind the cover and did you have any involvement in it?
Stacy: I absolutely LOVE my cover! The very talented artist’s name is Alisha Monin, and as soon as I saw her artwork on her website, I was blown away! I’m grateful that Kar-Ben encouraged my involvement in every step of the cover design. They asked me what I envisioned for the cover and I was able to give feedback and input throughout the design process. I think the final cover is just perfect!
Kathie: OK, let’s show everyone what it looks like!!
Kathie: Oh wow, I love the way the hands add that menacing feel! What did you think when you first saw the cover?
Stacy: At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the hands. In the first go-round, I thought they made the cover look a bit too much like it was a horror novel. Now, I think the hands are amazing! Just menacing enough! And that IS Joey standing there. Alisha captured him perfectly. I always wanted Skee-Ball to be featured on the cover because Skee-Ball is important to the plot of the story. Alisha drew the game just as I remember it from my childhood days at the Boardwalk arcades I frequented.
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thanks so much for joining me today, Stacy. I’m really looking forward to reading your book.
Stacy: Thank you so much, Kathie! I hope all of your readers will enjoy THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER when it comes out in September!
Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with more than 25 years of experience in middle school education. Stacy received her Bachelor’s Degree from Brandeis University and holds Master’s Degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Kent State University. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Stacy received a PJ Library Writer’s Incentive Award in 2020 for her debut novel THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, coming in September 2022 from Kar-Ben Publishing. An unrepentant Jersey Girl, Stacy still teases her hair and uses plenty of spray. When she’s not writing or matching great kids with great books, Stacy can most likely be found reading or rooting on her beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Her kids have flown the coop, so Stacy lives in central Ohio with her husband and their cat, Queen Esther. Find her on Twitter @snockowitz or at http://www.stacynockowitz.com.